Watching the exhibition games over the weekend, I took an interest in a couple of once highly regarded wide receivers whose careers have gotten off to slow starts. For one it's just one down season, for the other it's been several. Turns out that John Ross and Kevin White have something in common.
Since 2000, there have been 28 wide receivers selected with top-10 picks. Only two of them -- Ross and White, as it happens -- have put up a donut in their rookie seasons; no receptions at all.
Now, not all of them have turned in lousy rookie seasons; three went over 1,000 yards right away. And nine more went over 1,000 yards in one of their first three seasons.
|WIDEOUTS DRAFTED IN TOP 10, 2000-PRESENT|
|Year||Pk||Player||No||Yds||TD||1k by 3?|
|2015||4||Amari Cooper, Oak.||72||1070||6||Yes|
|2011||4||A.J. Green, Cin.||65||1057||7||Yes|
|2014||7||Mike Evans, T.B.||68||1051||12||Yes|
|2014||4||Sammy Watkins, Buff.||65||982||6||Yes|
|2003||3||Andre Johnson, Hou.||66||976||4||Yes|
|2011||6||Julio Jones, Atl.||54||959||8||Yes|
|2012||5||Justin Blackmon, Jac.||64||865||5||No|
|2004||7||Roy Williams, Det.||54||817||8||Yes|
|2004||3||Larry Fitzgerald, Ariz.||58||780||8||Yes|
|2007||2||Calvin Johnson, Det.||48||756||5||Yes|
|2009||10||Michael Crabtree, S.F.||48||625||2||No|
|2000||4||Peter Warrick, Cin.||51||592||7||No|
|2001||9||Koren Robinson, Sea.||39||536||1||Yes|
|2005||3||Braylon Edwards, Clev.||32||512||3||Yes|
|2007||9||Ted Ginn Jr., Mia.||34||420||3||No|
|2013||8||Tavon Austin, St.L.||40||418||6||No|
|2001||8||David Terrell, Chi.||34||415||4||No|
|2017||5||Corey Davis, Tenn.||34||375||0||?|
|2005||7||Troy Williamson, Minn.||24||372||2||No|
|2005||10||Mike Williams, Det.||29||350||1||No|
|2000||10||Travis Taylor, Balt.||28||276||3||No|
|2000||8||Plaxico Burress, Pitt.||22||273||0||Yes|
|2004||9||Reggie Williams, Jac.||27||268||1||No|
|2003||2||Charles Rogers, Det.||22||243||3||No|
|2009||7||Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oak.||9||124||1||No|
|2017||7||Mike Williams, LAC||11||95||0||?|
|2015||7||Kevin White, Chi.||0||0||0||No|
|2017||9||John Ross, Cin.||0||0||0||?|
About half (13) of those top 10 picks failed to put up 1,000 yards in any of their first three seasons. I count two of those 13 that have gone on to be significant pros: Michael Crabtree and Ted Ginn Jr. Those are the long odds facing Kevin White for emerging at some point. (And both Crabtree and Ginn did a lot more in their first three seasons than White has.)
As for Ross, it's just one poor season. Plaxico Burress did virtually nothing as a rookie, and he went on to have a really nice career. So way too early to give up on Ross, or Corey Davis, or Mike Williams. They can still turn it on in 2018.
Back to the weekend. Ross's exhibition got off to a comical start when he tripped over his own feet, resulting in an interception that was returned for a touchdown. But! He later took a quick out 20 yards down the sideline, using his great speed to blow right by a flat-footed defender; I believe I saw the guy's jaw actually drop off onto the turf. He drew three end zone targets, two uncatchable and a third that he caught but couldn't get his second foot down in bounds. I'm interested in Ross this year. I wouldn't call him a priority pick, but I think there's a lot of potential as the No. 2 in Cincinnati.
With White, Mitchell Trubisky threw to him 3 times in their limited action. Two were uncatchable (the quarterback got hit on one of the attempts). The third should have been caught, but White dropped up. There was a story in the offseason that the coaching staff has been trying to remind White of how good he was in college. Seems like his confidence is shot. (The fact that he's been outplayed thus far by seventh-rounder Javon Wims isn't helping, no doubt.) Doesn't look like it will happen for him -- not in Chicago, anyway.